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Mr. Rudy Nelson Lea, Sr. of Raleigh, NC departed this earthly life on Sunday, June 23, 2019 at WakeMed Campus in Raleigh. He was the youngest son of the late Archie Van Buren Lea and the late Mrs. Vivian Jones Lea. Both parents and his only sibling, Archie Dubois Lea, preceded him in death.
Mr. Lea, Sr., Founder and President of Lea Funeral Home and Cremation Services, has been a very active and supportive member of the Raleigh community for more than forty years. A native of Burlington, NC, Mr. Lea chartered his professional course starting as early as his high school years. As a student at Jordan Sellars High School, he began volunteering at a local funeral home after school hours to learn all that he could.
After graduating from Jordan Sellars High School, Mr. Lea enrolled in the Pittsburgh School of Mortuary Science, Pittsburgh, PA, where he was awarded the Associate of Arts Degree in Mortuary Science with Honors. He was a licensed mortician in both North Carolina and South Carolina. He was also a member of the Advisory Board of the School of Mortuary Science, Fayetteville Technical Community College, and a former member of the North Carolina Commission of Anatomy.
Prior to establishing his own funeral home business in Raleigh in 1980, Mr. Lea served several funeral homes in the area. He was the General Manager for Lightner Funeral Home for ten years. That experience inspired him to act on his vision to build a modern, state-of-the-art funeral home in Southeast Raleigh. Today, his funeral home is recognized as one of the most modern and well equipped funeral homes in the State. It is a family-owned business with a long history of community service. Mr. Lea took great pride in offering the community the very best in services and facilities. He recently built a state-of-the-art crematory and elegant community center on the complex grounds.
A past President, Vice-President and active member of the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service, Mr. Lea has been recognized with numerous awards, honors and citations for his community service. He served on the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service for 15 years. When his elected term expired, The North Carolina Funeral Directors Association reappointed him to the Board for another three-year term. When that three-year term ended, Governor Michael Easley reappointed him to serve on the Board twice.
Mr. Lea was frequently sought as a speaker because of his in-depth knowledge of the funeral business and his expertise as a successful and caring businessman. He has mentored many young people interested in pursuing a career in funeral service. In fact, several who have started their own businesses, received their training under Mr. Lea’s guidance. Today, many still call him for advice and support. He gave it willingly without any hesitation. Mortuary Science students consider it a professional endorsement to perform their apprenticeship with Lea Funeral Home.
Always seeking to improve his operation and that of his others, Mr. Lea personally designed a software program explicitly to manage the day-to-day operations of a funeral home. That program, with a patent pending, is used by funeral homes throughout the country.
Mr. Lea was always an unassuming gentleman who did not seek the limelight. He believed in doing good, helping somebody if he could and then, moving on to the next task at hand. Consequently, many of his compassionate deeds often went unheralded. Luckily, some of them, as indicated below, did not go unnoticed.
The following are a few of his honors and awards:
2018 Sponsored church trip to the African American museum in Washington, DC.
2014 Bigger & Better Business Award Eta Sigma Chapter, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
2011 Certificate of Appreciation from Governor Beverly Perdue
2010 Certificate of Appreciation, Wake County Voter Education Coalition
2001 Special Recognition Award, Southeast Raleigh Community, Raleigh, NC
1996 J.J. Sansom Corporate Citizen Award, Raleigh, NC
A few of the community activities include:
FREE VANS: Lea Funeral Home rented two 12-passenger vans for the 2008 Obama for President Headquarters. The vans were used to transport voters to the polls.
FREE LUNCHES: During each election, Lea Funeral Home provides free lunches for poll workers at designated voting sites in Southeast Raleigh.
FREE TENTS: Lea Funeral Home erects tents at the Chavis Heights Voting Site to protect workers and voters from inclement weather.
LITTLE LEAGUES: Throughout the years, Mr. Lea provided uniforms and equipment for several Little League Teams.
SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN: Special Needs children are provided at least 12 tickets to attend the annual AMRAN Shriners Circus at the NC State Fairgrounds.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS DAY: Food, gifts, games, and fun activities are provided for the entire community at the Family and Friends Day.
THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS: The funeral home adopts a family for the each holiday. The family is provided groceries for the holiday season.
CANDLELIGHT SERVICE OF REMEMBRANCE: Lea Funeral Home was the pioneer in recognizing the community’s need for Candlelight Service of Remembrance. The beautiful, inspiring event is open to the public. Other funeral homes have followed his lead.
Mr. Lea assured that the Funeral Home contributed to many pastoral and church anniversaries, debutante balls, Blue Revues, scholarship activities and HBCU Fundraisers.
Few in the community know that Mr. Lea was a champion tennis player and played a “mean” tenor saxophone.
Mr. Lea was a member of the Compassionate Tabernacle of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, where he served as a member of the Board of Trustees. He was also a member of Widow’s Son #4 Lodge.
Mr. Lea is survived by his devoted and loving wife, Mrs. Lucille Thomas Lea of the home; one daughter, Delonica Lea Tyler (Jason) of Greensboro, NC; three sons, Dr. Rudy Nelson Lea, Jr (Dr. Jayanthi Lea) of Dallas, TX, Shawn E. Lea of Rocky Mount and Nathan E. Lea (Shannon) of Raleigh, NC; Nine Grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He is also, survived by one sister-in-law, Dorothy Lea of VA.
Public Viewing: 12:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Thursday, June 27, 2019 at Lea Funeral Home Chapel, 2500 Poole Road, Raleigh, NC.
Wake: 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, Thursday, June 27, 2019 at Lea Funeral Home Chapel, 2500 Poole Road, Raleigh, NC.
Funeral Service: 11:00 AM, Friday, June 28, 2019 at Compassionate Tabernacle of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 2310 Compassionate Drive, Raleigh, NC.
Visitation: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM, Friday, June 28, 2019 preceding the service at the church.
Entombment: Montlawn Memorial Park, Raleigh, NC.